Methanococcus maripaludis is a strictly anaerobic, methane-producing archaeon. Aromatic amino acids (AroAAs) are biosynthesized in this autotroph either by the de novo pathway, with chorismate as an intermediate, or by the incorporation of exogenous aryl acids via indolepyruvate oxidoreductase (IOR). In order to evaluate the roles of these pathways, the gene that encodes the third step in the de novo pathway, 3-dehydroquinate dehydratase (DHQ), was deleted. This mutant required all three AroAAs for growth, and no DHQ activity was detectible in cell extracts, compared to 6.0 +/- 0.2 mU mg(-1) in the wild-type extract. The growth requirement for the AroAAs could be fulfilled by the corresponding aryl acids phenylacetate, indoleacetate, and p-hydroxyphenylacetate. The specific incorporation of phenylacetate into phenylalanine by the IOR pathway was demonstrated in vivo by labeling with [1-(13)C]phenylacetate. M. maripaludis has two IOR homologs. A deletion mutant for one of these homologs contained 76, 74, and 42% lower activity for phenylpyruvate, p-hydoxyphenylpyruvate, and indolepyruvate oxidation, respectively, than the wild type. Growth of this mutant in minimal medium was inhibited by the aryl acids, but the AroAAs partially restored growth. Genetic complementation of the IOR mutant also restored much of the wild-type phenotype. Thus, aryl acids appear to regulate the expression or activity of the de novo pathway. The aryl acids did not significantly inhibit the activity of the biosynthetic enzymes chorismate mutase, prephenate dehydratase, and prephenate dehydrogenase in cell extracts, so the inhibition of growth was probably not due to an effect on these enzymes.
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